Coincidentally there were rumours that we were about to buy yet another player from Everton but if we do needs to be a hell of lot more effective than the last glass-ankled flop we purchased from Everton. But the close season game of musical chairs isn't here yet, even though there are many who wish it was, some of them on the pitch if our display was anything to go by. We had no Rosicky, Ljungberg, Henry, Walcott or Van Persie. Quite a lot of fire power missing there then, so once again much depended on big Ade, who this afternoon was accompanied by Baptista up front. Also note that our most defensive substitute line-up yet to seen at the new stadium included Senderos, Djourou and Hoyte.
There was very little of our fluid one touch stuff today and quality football was sporadic at best from Arsenal and almost totally non-existent from Fulham. A pleasant sunny afternoon started well for Arsenal as a cross by Adebayor was met in the air by Baptista after about four minutes. He got over the ball and headed it down past Niemi who had no chance. 1-0 to Arsenal and the slaughter should have begun.
Instead of a slaughter however we had a catalogue of missed chances but not before Brown was given a yellow card for showing Cesc his studs. A fantastic Clichy break, one of many, saw Cesc set of Baptista with a sitter that he spurned. Clichy broke again and the move ended with a cross from Hleb, that Baptista fired well off target. Clattenburg did his best to aid Fulham by awarding a free kick to the wrong team, which he then allowed to be taken from the wrong place. It didn't help them because they were pretty abject. Very marginal offside call against Ade. Gilberto carded for a foul on Brown.
Ade with a driving run and he almost found Cesc who had made up an amazing amount of ground to get into a good position. A neat cut back by Hleb to Cesc who placed his shot low and on target only to see Niemi make a fine save. A brilliant cross by Clichy and a great header by Ade that was once again saved by Niemi. Another crap shot from Baptista when put through on goal. Another Hleb cut back and this time Ade had his shot blocked. A poor scuffed clearance by Lehmann at the other end.
Eboue was carded for a free kick that didn't look to be one. The Northwest corner resounded with 'you don't know what you're doing' aimed at the hapless Clattenburg. Clattenburg responded by totally ignoring yet another hack on Hleb, maybe he had money on Fulham staying up. Mind you that also says very little for his judgement. Half time arrived after an insipid first half. We could have been five up mind, and you'd like to think we would have been with a front line that included either Henry, Van Persie or both.
Hleb played in Ade who did brilliantly until it came to the shot where he blasted over. Jensen shot wide to show that Fulham were still alive. Diop with a shot blocked by Gilberto. Helguson on for McBride plus Dempsey on to replace Jensen. Meanwhile our north end were having a 'North Bank' 'Clock End' chanting competition, a sure sign of boredom. Diop jumped on Baptista's back and was awarded the free kick. Two successive Fulham handballs and no yellow cards. Ade with a great run and shot cutting in from the left which was saved, had anyone thought to make up ground on our right he could have passed instead of having to shoot from a narrow angle. There was an offside flag against Fulham so Clattenburg awarded them a corner. Lehmann screwed up an attempted punch, it fell to Davies in space on their right. He promptly lobbed it back into an empty net. 1-1 so maybe we would wake up now and get our frigging finger out.
Fulham should have been long dead and buried but we'd gifted them an equaliser with twelve minutes left to play. It took us, or rather Ade four minutes to go ahead again. Having beaten the offside trap he drilled a low drive into the corner of the net. 2-1 to Arsenal and a yellow card for Helguson for a crude challenge earlier in our breaking move. Bocanegra picked up a long overdue card when he punched the ball away, his crude challenges on Hleb having been ignored all match.
It was Hleb who sealed Fulham's fate when he danced into the box only to be crudely upended by Volz who had come on to replace Rosenior. Captain Gilberto stepped up to slot the spot kick into the corner to the keeper's right. 3-1 and a much more realistic scoreline. Crap shot by Radzinski. Ade once more shot wide having been set up by Arsenal's man-of-the match Gael Clichy. Unless Fulham can buy some more referees I don't fancy their chances of survival. Their best hope for staying up is that the teams around them do worse then they do.
As for Arsenal we will need to step up a couple of gears against the Chavs if we want to kill off their slim title hopes.
The only other point I have to make is that if our groundsman doesn't win the groundsman of the year award it will have been fixed. The pitch looks as perfect now as it did for our first match. Which is also a triumph for the stadium design which enables us to have such an exquisite playing surface.